2018 – Year in Review

I started this particular blog on wordpress in 2008 and it is hard to believe 10 years have passed since. There was a time when I wrote more than 20 blog posts a year as an honest and real expression of my thoughts at the time. I rarely blog here now (instead I blog on my tutor website), I do however like writing an end of year review on my personal blog as it grounds me back to what blogging is really all about. Within the tutoring community blogging is often seen as something necessary for SEO purposes. For me blogging should just be about blogging and I blog about whatever I feel like blogging about. I hope to revive this blog or merge it with my tutoring one eventually. For now here is my 2018 year in review:

A year of accommodation in limbo

I left my Old Street flat last year in summer 2017, which seems like a very long time ago. I intended to buy a property but the uncertainty over Brexit means I don’t know what’s happening to the market. It’s not a terrible situation however, as I’ve managed to save more money for a deposit and as property prices have been static I’ll be in a better position to buy. It’s been really nice to have been living with my family in the meantime. Though most of my belongings are stored at my brother’s garage, so I feel in a state of unsettlement. I wonder if I even really need that stuff now as I’ve managed perfectly fine for 1.5 years without it.

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Spending a lot more time with family this year.

A year of losing a friend and a singing influence

The only two blog posts I wrote this year were a tribute to the Cranberries singer and much closer to home, a tribute to the sudden loss of Steven Joad, a prominent figure and helper on the London open mic night scene. Both losses meant a lot to me and I wrote about them at the time.

In March 2018, the world lost Stephen Hawking. My life crossed his for a very short moment and my Facebook post at the time was:

I was 20 back then and out in Cambridge with my collecting tin, raising money for Poppy Day with the RAG club of Imperial College. I happened to be just outside the Marks and Spencer and I noticed someone inside. I was in two minds if I should go and say hello but I went in anyway. After a brief conversation with the carer, I handed her a couple of poppies, including one for the person she was with. The person in the wheelchair acknowledged it with a brief flicker of his eye and I went off outside to collect again. It was Stephen Hawking. What a true inspiration to humanity, a moment of time and space I will never forget. Rest in Peace.

Paid off student loan

21 years after I first took out a student loan I finally paid it off late this year. It was a more emotional moment than I had anticipated, as for the first time in a very long time I became debt free. The loan was part of my life and when times got tough for me financially I was able to defer the loan. Thankfully the last 5 years were good for me and I started paying the loan off again. Bring on the next debt of the mortgage.

The rise and cutback of my online tutoring

My online tutoring just got busy and busy in the 2017-2018 year. That was my busiest year of tutoring ever and I was at it 7 days a week.

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Meeting up with Indie Tutor friends, colleagues, supporters, co-workers. Whatever you want to call it 🙂

I had gained some weight as I tutor from home. The days of going out commuting daily and running about on the London transport network seems like a faded dream. Little did I realise that running around had some (albeit limited) benefits! My social life suffered and I stopped performing music regularly as well once I moved further East with trips into central London taking a little longer. Furthermore, I got involved in many tutoring related side projects as well which really took up a lot of my time.

So, this summer I made the decision that I was going to take a hit in my income for 2018-2019 and reduce my tutoring hours. I’m glad to say I’ve managed to discipline myself to not tutor on Sundays and I keep Friday and Saturday evenings free. It’s a great work-life balance and I’m very happy with it all. The rise of my online tutoring in other countries means I tutor midweek daytimes more than ever. I’ve got a regular schedule of going to the gym, running at the local park and going out to a local cafe to get out of home. The new schedule doesn’t always go to plan but it sure has allowed me to focus on my love of live music and singing more as well. More on that next.

Singing lessons and playing open mic nights

I was taking singing lessons sporadically in 2017 but this year I’ve really gone for it.

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Performing more regularly at open mic nights again 🙂

I’ve been taking them regularly every week, once a week since the summer. It’s been quite a process so far and in many ways I’m only now starting to find my true voice. I really look forward to sharing it all through new recordings I’ll make. I bought a brand new microphone for vocal recording in 2017 and I’m planning to buy studio audio monitors too. This will complete my PC’s transformation into a fully fledged demo audio studio. I fully intend to release a bunch of solo material as a singer in 2019 or 2020.

On the performance front I found a great venue 15 minutes walk from where I live. It’s the perfect way for me to get out of home, get some fresh air walking and blast out some songs once a fortnight. Going out and playing live is my thing and I’m so glad I’m doing it again now.

New laptop, monitor, microphone, chair and guitar amp

I got myself a brand new laptop (the very first one I’ve ever owned) which comes in very handy for tutoring when I’m away from London or at a cafe. To enhance my online tutoring even more I upgraded to a larger monitor screen this year. From 21″ to 24″ and in future I plan to pair both monitors up too.

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Funky new Rode NT USB mic.

I also got myself a really decent microphone for my online tutoring and Facebook live-streaming. The Rode NT USB is a cracker and I can’t believe I only upgraded to a good quality mic so recently. Additionally, I got myself a decent ergonomic chair since my job involves sitting on the same chair for hours. I had been using a terrible folding chair for nearly two years and when I started getting back pains and breathing problems, I seriously had to make a change. All this is superb investment in my own well being as an online tutor and to enhance the tutoring experience for me and student. I’m a big believer of reinvesting in the very best possible hardware, software and resources when it comes to online tutoring.

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Dell 24″ monitor

And lastly, I treated myself to buying the Boss Katana 50 guitar amp. It’s the first electric guitar amp in 20 years that I have bought and has really got me into playing my electric guitar a lot more at home. Usually home guitar amps are pretty rubbish, so I would only play my electric guitar properly in rehearsal studios and gigs. But now I can get some of that raw rock guitar roar at home from a really decent sounding amp.

Maths teaching professional development and Education technology

This year I’ve learned more about the skill of teaching than I have in any other year.
img_5001 I’ve learnt a phenomenal amount on teaching maths from one of the best networks for CPD, the La Salle Education Complete Maths Network. This fills me with a great sense of confidence in my abilities as a tutor. The fact that I now have a fair bit of teacher training is going to add a ton of value to my tutoring. I’ve also read a lot and followed education blogs. I feel this journey into truly exploring education has only really just begun and more on that will be on my tutoring blog over the coming months and years. I also attended a couple of EdTech events, Bett 2018 in January and the EdTech exchange.

Indie Tutors and my tutory live-streams

I remain totally dedicated to organising tutor meet-ups and community. Each week me and co-host Henry Dingle hold a lovely Facebook livestream for tutors. I’ve really started to get better with this live presentation on video. And I’ve even started my very own live-streams on my tutoring Facebook page (Atul Rana – Online Tutor). I’m a big fan of video and hope to really do a lot more of this next year. After running tutoring courses, Facebook groups and attending maths events all over the U.K. in the last 3 years I’m getting a good sense of what’s needed.

Summer hot hot hot

This summer was one of the hottest I can ever remember. It really was amazing and memorable. England’s unexpected performance in the Football World Cup 2018 added a national sense of optimism for a short while. I blogged about the summer in some detail on my tutoring blog. img_4090It was amazing to go on many day outs with my mum and sister, locally in Hackney Wick, Greenwich Peer, away to Windsor Castle, the Farnborough Air Show, loads of local carnivals run by the council and watching team India for the ladies Hockey World Cup 2018.

I had a lovely time going to Edinburgh and a friend’s birthday weekend near Peterborough jamming lots of music. I performed at the Mint Street festival again. Iron Maiden + Def Leppard were my two big gigs this year. Both surpassing expectations.

Books I read this year included Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, Factfulness by the late Hans Rosling and Craig Barton’s How I wish I’d taught maths. All invaluable reading. Things I didn’t do at all in 2018 included any sort of travel abroad. I do miss going to India and hope to travel there soon.

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From the Beast from the East, to an early hot spring weekend, to being cold again, to a long hot summer, a mild autumn and a mildish winter, with never ending Brexit drama all around, 2018 was a roller coaster. Despite what was going on in the outside world, it was a great year for me personally. It was a year of growth followed by reflection, re-balance and renewal. It has set me up perfectly for 2019. Happy new year all!

Other year in reviews: 2017, 2016, 2015

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